This paper uses microeconomic data from the UK Family Expenditure Surveys and the General Household Surveys to describe and explain changes in the distribution of male wages from 1965 to 1992. Both education and age differentials can be explained as cohort effects; these are important in the UK due to a succession of policy reforms affecting the amount, quality and distribution of education that children receive. We also show that dispersion increased much more within the lower education groups. By using the GHS data we are able to show that this is primarily due to the increasing levels of qualifications obtained by some of those leaving school at 16. Finally we sow that the brief wage compression that occurred during the late 1970''s can be characterised as a common effect across all education and age groups. After controlling for these we find that there was an underlying trend towards increasing dispersion during our entire sample period
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